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  • Writer's picturePauline Greuell

Supplies for stencil printing on fabric

Updated: Mar 13

I have often been asked about the supplies I use for stencil printing technique on fabric and I'll try to give you some explanation.

This blog is a blog I wrote when I first started stencil printing on fabric, I have a few more recent blogs in which I go into the supplies in more detail, you can find them below.

3 pieces of stencil printed fabric with stencil brushes and craft knife
Brushes and craft knife

I started stencil printing on fabric at first because the sreen printing studio where I'd learned to prin closed. So I fell went back to stencil printing that I'd done briefly as a teenager when I wanted to print a table cloth as a present.

Stencil printing is a low cost technique and really easy to start with, what I did not know then is that new possibilities of the technique would reveal themselves as I was exploring it and now stencil printing still remains my favourite printing technique.

Let's start with the supplies for stencil printing on fabric.

Stencil material

For the stencils themselves I started with the easiest option, I took a transparent file folder (a relatively stiff one) that I had lying around. It worked, I could cut stencils that

two used stencils from different stencil materials
Different kinds of stencil material

were not too detailed or fragile, print with them and clean them. The durability of these stencils however was limited, but it was a good start, I think it took me several months to find a better alternative and all that time I used this no cost option. So that could very well be your choice when you first begin. What I found in the end however was ‘mylar’ and that was a complete game changer, because it is really strong, very easy to cut and clean. Even relatively delicate stencils would not tear when washing under a hot tap. I get mine in a specialised webshop for spray art (or shop specialising in cutting machines like Cricut).

I choose a transparent material that is washable it because I want to used my stencils over and over and transparency is important for me to see where I place my stencil.

4 different kinds of knife, one suitable, the other 3 not
Which knife to choose and not to choose

Cutting knife

I have used Exacto type craft knives from the start and tried some other knives, but nothing has worked as well. I use the standard variety. There are craft knives that have a swivel blade, but I've never been able to use them on mylar.


There are so many inks for fabric printing out there and I’ve always used the same kind (Tinta from Zeebra in Ede in the Netherlands, they unfortunately do not have a webshop), but there are many brands of water based ink for screenprinting on fabric and most should work equally well. Within most brand there are two varieties: inks that are more transparent for working on light coloured fabric and inks that are more opaque for printing on darker fabric. I work with the transparent variety both for the effect that I want to achieve and also because the opaque inks clog my brushes faster. The ink I use can be fixated onto the fabric by heat setting (ironing the fabric once the ink has dried), but do follow instructions of the brand you use. Great thing about stencil printing is that you need only small quantities of ink (unlike screen printing), and I started with the smallest containers available.

4 different stencil brushes,
different kinds of stencil brushes


The tool that seems the simplest of all can be the hardest to find. You basically need a stiff brush with a flat end intended for stencil printing. These brushes are widely available almost everywhere and are mostly made of pig hair, but they differ in stiffness and in quality. I always go for the brushes with the most bounce (the stiffest ones that are still flexible) and I prefer to buy them in a brick and mortar shop not online so I can feel them. I have occasionally found a nylon brush that was good (it maintained it’s bounce much longer and dried really fast), but I’ve not been able to find it again yet.

When you are doing a larger project your brushes can become clogged with too much ink and loose their bounce and that limits the effects you can achieve with them. When I’m printing I often change brushes for that reason.


You can stencil print on smooth natural fabrics (cotton, linen), too much texture in the fabric makes stencil printing more difficult. Question I had when I started is whether to wash the fabrics before printing. It is usually recommended for two reasons: fabric can shrink quite a bit when you print in the places where there is ink and this makes your fabric wobbly. Also fabrics are often treated with emulsions to stiffen them, sometimes ink does not take well on the emulsion and the print might therefore not be as durable as when you print on pre washed fabric.

There can also be reasons not to wash the fabric, first it’s takes a long time to iron the washed fabric to get it as smooth as when you bought it, and also I prefer the stiffness in some projects like bags. So it really is a process of trial and error, to find out the amount of shrinkage and whether the ink takes well on the fabric. I sometimes print on artists canvas that does take my ink well without pre washing it and that shrinks minimally, but I found that many other fabrics really do need to be washed.

This is the first post in a small series. In the next post you'll find more information about the actual printing process. Look for the next tutorials in my blog and if you want to make sure you don't miss them you can subscribe to my newsletter.

Since first making this post I have written several more detailed posts about the materials I use, check them out below.

If you are interested in learning more and want to take some classes with me. You can find out more here.


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Pauline Greuell
Pauline Greuell
Oct 16, 2019


Oct 14, 2019

Oh Pauline,

Thank you so much for the effort in doing these posts! I can’t believe the timing. I’ve just finished- about a week ago- my first stencil project, and am so keen to learn more from someone with your skill and talent. I can’t wait for the next one!!!

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